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A rebellious youth, sentenced to a boy's reformatory for robbing a bakery, rises through the ranks of the institution through his prowess as a long distance runner. During his solitary runs, reveries of his life and times before his incarceration lead him to re-evaluate his privileged status as the Governor's prize runner. Written by
When the boys are doing gardening work one character calls another "you mug" (meaning gullible idiot). This is incorrectly recorded in the subtitles as "you muppet" but the word "muppet" - meaning an idiot - was not in use when the film was made. See more »
Running was always a big thing in our family, specially running away from the police. It's hard to understand. All I know is that you've got to run, running without knowing why, through fields and woods. And the winning post's no end, even though the barmy crowds might be cheering themselves daft. That's what the loneliness of a long distance runner feels like.
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I saw the last few minutes of this flick on Tyne Tees telly a couple of years after its theater rounds. In that part of England in those days there was only subsequent run at the Odeon, ABC and Majestic and I never got the chance to see it on a big screen. I can always hope.
I also remember the lurid cover on the paperback as it sat on the rack at Boots alongside Brendan Behan's "Borstal Boy." I had to settle for Mickey Spillane or Ian Fleming instead.
The film is far more gritty than Billy Liar, but Courtenay is identical in both roles in that he has to triumph over adversity in both films. In this role he rejects the life of his father which was subservience to the mill in favor of living large, but not very. In short he aspired to be a spiv just to blend in. But he needs to impress a couple of birds too, and that takes money -- and love of money is the root of all evil.
Then he gets a mini-vacation in a castle stolen by Oliver Cromwell and eventually converted to a government-owned barracks to meet the conveniences of World War II. I have never seen the concrete post with barbed wire any other place than England. In this boot camp styled borstal he has to confront his demons and decide just exactly who he wants to be. The Head has an ax to grind with the local school and naively hopes that sports is the way to channel these boys' anger. Should that fail, there are posters plastering the walls touting a man's life in the army. And that's why this film doesn't waste a scene.
Americans watching this film might have some trouble with an almost extinct dialect, but human nature does not change.
Favorite scenes 1) when he burns the pound note and 2) the romp on the dunes at Skegness.
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